Did Maz Kanata Appear In 'Star Wars: The Phantom Menace' Before 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens?' [PHOTO]

Maz Kanata was one of the most divisive new characters in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Before it was released, much was made of the mysterious new character with speculation swirling about what she had the power to do.

In the end, we didn't really get to see too much of Maz Kanata's powers and abilities in her Star Wars debut in The Force Awakens. Or, what we thought was her debut. It has now been alleged that Maz Kanata actually first appeared in the Star Wars universe all the way back in 1999.

That's right, one eagle-eyed Star Wars fan has found proof that Maz Kanata actually debuted in The Phantom Menace, and not The Force Awakens. They've also found some pretty convincing proof, too, with an image of what looks to be Maz Kanata in The Phantom Menace appearing online. You can check out the image below.

[Image via Lucasfilm]The above scene from Star Wars Episode I: Phantom Menace takes place in the middle of the film, when Liam Neeson's Qui-Gon Jinn, Ewan McGregor's Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Natalie Portman's Queen Padmé Amidala arrive on Tatooine and meet the young Anakin Skywalker, who is played by Jake Lloyd.

As you can clearly see from the above picture, in the corner of Anakin's room is a figure that clearly resembles Maz Kanata. What are the chances that J.J. Abrams and Star Wars: The Force Awakens' creative team were inspired by The Phantom Menace and molded Maz Kanata after this image?

Well, considering that we've already been informed that Maz Kanata is around 1,000 years old, there is room for the character to have featured in The Phantom Menace. Plus, we also know that Kanata is sensitive to, and has a deep knowledge of, the Force.

This means that there's a chance that the young Anakin Skywalker could have heard stories about Maz Kanata's illustrious past with the Force, which then inspired him to even make, or maybe acquire, the figure in his bedroom. Or, the figure could just be of someone else that is the same race as Maz Kanata.

In fact, it was recently revealed that the deleted scenes in Star Wars: The Force Awakens will prove that Maz Kanata is able to use the Force rather well, too.

During a recent interview with Collider, Chris Corbould, who works as the SFX Supervisor for Industrial Light & Magic, admitted that a scene was actually shot for Star Wars: The Force Awakens that showed Maz Kanata working wonders with the Force.

[Image via Lucasfilm]The scene was eventually cut from the blockbuster, but now Corbould has opened up about what it consisted of. "There was a particular part of a scene that never made it," Corbould explained, "where they go underneath the castle and they're going into the underground passageways, and stormtroopers are coming down the stairs and Maz uses her powers to collapse the ceiling."

In the same interview, it was also confirmed that Star Wars: The Force Awakens' eventual Blu-Ray and DVD release won't actually include an extended cut. However, it will feature a hoard of deleted scenes that will undoubtedly give fans yet another gateway into the universe and The Force Awakens' characters.

Maz Kanata is almost certainly going to be prominently featured in future Star Wars films, starting with Episode VIII and Episode XI, which are due out in May 2017 and 2019, respectively. Maz Kanata is played by the Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o, who won the award for 12 Years A Slave. Because of Kanata's age, there's also a chance she could be featured in the Star Wars Anthology films Rogue One and the proposed Han Solo prequel, as well.

[Image via Lucasfilm]